Phoebe Maltz deserves praise for the clarity of her explanation on what makes a fair internship in her blog posting “Examining the Entry Level Intern” on The Gothamist (May 21, 2006).
The justification for an internship being unpaid is that the position is an educational experience for the intern; the transfer of goods is from the organization to the intern. While both a paid internship and a traditional job also serve as learning experiences for the employee, an unpaid internship ought to differ from these other situations in that the help provided by the intern to the organization is negligible.
The fundamental point here is that you deserve to be paid even if you’re gaining experience as an intern. Everybody that works is gaining experience, but they are paid nevertheless.
But some business seem to think that they can hire an unpaid staff by calling the job an internship. How is the following job posting, digged out by Phobe Maltz, an internship?
“Duties include filing, setting up new filing system, creating and editing org charts, updating 401Ks and other files, assist Human Resources Director in all duties, etc.”
As she observes:
“The unpaid internship has expanded to encompass all manner of jobs formerly known as “secretary” or, more recently, “administrative assistant.”” “It now seems almost greedy to expect compensation, any compensation, for work.”
But the shame shouldn’t be on the intern for expecting a salary. It should be on the organization for not providing one.